The Cochran Shoals Trail is an easy hike along the western bank of the Chattahoochee River. This busy trail just north of I-285 is a popular trail for runners, bikers, and dog walkers.
Hiking Cochran Shoals Trail
We’ll call it a hike, but it’s really more of a walk. The Cochran Shoals Trail is a wide gravel trail that’s like a greenway compared to other hikes in Atlanta. Located just north of I-285, the trail follows along the western bank of the Chattahoochee River and is part of the network of trails that make up the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
There are two parking lots on either side of the trail, the Interstate North trailhead and the Columns Drive trailhead. Both parking lots have a parking fee of $5 or an annual park pass (either the National Parks pass or the pass specifically for Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parks, which is a cheaper annual fee). There are restrooms at both trailheads.
We like to start at the Interstate North trailhead. From here, the wide gravel trail follows north up the river, giving views of the rocky rapids and ducks swimming in the shallow waters. You can access the river from pretty much any point on the trail, making it a good place to shoot the ‘Hooch if you don’t mind all the rocks, or you can look out from a few observation docks jutting out into the river. In the fall and winter, you can see through the trees to admire the beautiful mansions on the river.
At a little over half a mile, a boardwalk departs off the main trail. We like to take this detour to walk through the wetlands at least to the end of the boardwalk. Past here, the trail gets muddy and more rocky and uphill, so we usually turn back and retrace the boardwalk back to the main trail and continue on north.
Since the trail is flat and wide, it’s very popular with runners, bikers, and people walking their dogs. There’s plenty of room to maneuver around other hikers on the trail, unless you run into a muddy patch after a big rain.
The trail reaches the Columns Drive parking lot at 1.7 miles. It’s actually a loop trail that continues up a slight hill from here, but we like walking along the river, so at this point we just turn back around and retrace the main trail. The hike completes at 3.14 miles, making for an afternoon stroll that’s easy as pie!
Where should we hike next? We’re in need of some suggestions! Let me know in the comments below!